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Three Common Barriers to Communication with Your Teen

Three Common Barriers to Communication with Your Teen

Navigating adolescence can be an emotional and confusing ride for both parents and child. As your child enters this stage, they become more independent and push their boundaries often portraying the message, “I don’t need you Mom and Dad.”

The truth is; however, they do need you; they need to feel loved and connected so that they have a safe place to turn to when they have to face those not-so-easy moments in life.

Healthy relationships with our kids are rooted in effective communication. This will help you and your child feel happier, connected, and more confident when those difficult conversations need to take place. Here are three common barriers that often get in the way of communicating well with our teens.

Unsolicited Advising

Parents label behaviors, give advice, prescribe solutions, lecture, blame, question, and have all the answers in hopes that their teen will absorb what they need and apply it to their own lives. While the intention is good, the message received is very different. Teens feel as if they have not been heard, understood, or that their perspective doesn’t matter. This only cause’s anger, diminishes self-esteem, and drives an unwanted wedge between parent and child.

Effective communication is more about listening, less about talking. Listen first to understand what they are saying and then reflect back to them what you are hearing them say. Once the tone of the conversation is set, simply ask open-ended questions, and then ask for permission when wanting to offer advice. This lets your teen know that you are here for them, you respect them, and you are willing to help if they need or want it.

Over or Underreacting

Overreacting, even when well-intentioned, may cause adolescent children distress and unwarranted guilt. Overreactions may communicate to the teen that they cannot count on their parents for help to prevent such reactions in the future.

Parents are busy. They may unconsciously or unintentionally withdraw or disconnect from what teens are trying to communicate. Underreactions minimize what the teen may feel is a major issue. In addition, it is easy to say, “there’s no need to get so upset,” or “just get over it,” which portrays that the teen’s feelings are not valid and they are not understood.

Timing can make or break your conversation. Sometimes it is better to take a break, gather your thoughts and calm down before approaching your teen about the issue at hand. This will help minimize overreactions and ensure that both parties can be present during the conversation. Open up to compromise and show understanding by validating your teen’s point of view so they know they are being heard.

Non-verbal messages

Your facial expressions, posture, gestures and eye contact are loaded with cues that can make or break a conversation. If you’re planning on what to say next, looking at your phone, or if your attention is drifting away from your teen, you could be sending them damaging and confusing ideas.

Minimize distractions by putting down your phone and turning off the TV. Stay attentive and show genuine interest in what your teen is saying. Pay attention to the non-verbal messages your body is sending out; it’s helpful to uncross your arms, look at your teen in the eye, and make sure your tone of voice is steady and respectful.

Many parents are guilty of falling into these traps as communication does not come naturally or easily to most. For more information www.helpguide.org has an abundance of communication-related articles that can be used to help deepen your connection to your teen and other relationships in your life.

Karissa Morris is a Provisional Professional Counselor (PPC) in the Campbell County Medical Group Kid Clinic. The Kid Clinic is a school-based pediatric clinic in Gillette, Wyoming. The medical clinic serves children ages 2 weeks to 18 years old; and counseling services for children 4 years old to 21 years old. It is located at 800 Butler Spaeth Rd., across from St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Gillette, Wyoming. The Kid Clinic is open Monday-Friday from 8 am-5 pm. For more information, call 307-688-8700 or visit www.cchwyo.org/services/pediatrics/kid-clinic/. The Kid Clinic is a collaborative effort between Campbell County Health and Campbell County School District.